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Editorials

County elected officials are rightto turn down cost-of-living raises

Jackson County's elected officials appear poised to make the right statement to the voters who elected them by supporting a freeze on their own salaries as the county budget process proceeds.

County Administrator Sue Slack had recommended a 1.98 percent cost-of-living increase for the nine elected officials, who include the three commissioners, the sheriff, the clerk and the assessor. But the three public members of the county Budget Committee voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend no raises at all.

That's entirely appropriate given the shaky status of the county's finances. Raises awarded to elected officials last year ranged from — percent to 7 percent.

Giving the 1.98 percent raises would cost the county about &

36;10,000 ' a tiny fraction of the proposed general fund budget of &

36;14.7 million. But the significance of a decision to forgo the raises would far outweigh the dollar amount.

Taxpayers are understandably skeptical when officials say the county can't afford more sheriff's deputies while approving raises for themselves. Forgoing those raises sends a powerful message the public.

— It says, We understand your frustration, and we are setting an example by agreeing to live on the same amount we earned last year.

That is not to say that these officials don't deserve pay raises. They are employees of the county, and like any other employee they deserve to be fairly compensated.

But public service sometimes demands sacrifices, and this is one of those times.

Several of the elected officials themselves have indicated they support the freeze, including County Clerk Kathy Beckett, District Attorney Mark Huddleston and Commissioner Sue Kupillas. They deserve credit for what amounts to a personal sacrifice for the public good.

The full Budget Committee, made up of the three public members and the three commissioners, will receive the salary recommendation today. The committee should adopt it.

Light in the tunnel

Instrument-related and electronic-related manufacturing has experienced an economic downturn over the past several years. And manufacturing has been down statewide and nationally for 31 months in a row, according to Oregon state economists.

These facts point to the potential success of firms like Lighthouse Worldwide Solutions of Milpitas, Calif. It's good to see a little bounce-back in that sector, economists say.

The bounce-back comment was made in connection with plans by Lighthouse to shift its manufacturing operations to Medford, creating 80 to 100 new jobs in this area over the next 18 months.

The company makes particle counters, which it designs, installs and maintains for contamination monitoring systems throughout the world. The devices range in price from &

36;4,000 to &

36;20,000.

The company is opening in the 8,930-square-foot building formerly occupied by Viatech International Enterprises on Disk Drive in west Medford.

We hope the decision by Lighthouse to shift operations here bodes well for the future of this type of industry in Medford. Lighthouse chose Medford over cities in Montana, Nevada and Arizona because of the area's transportation and, of course, its livability.

Lighthouse is expected to inject between &

36;11 million and &

36;16 million into the Medford-area economy annually.

Again, we hope this is the beginning of a trend that will bring more clean, high-tech manufacturing to Southern Oregon. It's good news for an area that over the past several years lost much of its lumber production.

Good luck, Lighthouse. You're just the sort of industry Medford needs.